TeamsHW Motors: 1951 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
A quote from Zechariah says, 'Who despises the day of small things?' In every area of life there are these stories of small beginnings; where amazing people and events are birthed from obscurity and humble beginnings. More often than not, the person or event is remembered more so than from where the person or event came. There are many such stories within Formula One's history. There are many such stories of memorable people or events, but the ones that helped to make the event happen becomes forgotten with the passage of time. Examples of such stories are numerous within Formula One, but a couple of the more famous ones would have to be Senna at Toleman and Schumacher with Jordan. HW Motors is another of the numerous stories.
HW Motors is practically forgotten in Formula One history. It is difficult to really find a whole lot of information on the team despite having provided racing great Stirling Moss a ride during the 1951 Formula One season. Moss wasn't the only one of top name drivers to have sat behind the wheel of an HWM car, but his career well and truly benefited from such an opportunity.
Humble beginnings became the team's main theme even before the team came into existence. George Abecassis started racing cars back in the middle-thirties. To fund this endeavor George took on work with a local gas station. George's results were not indicative of a great career, but he was known to be very fast. In very short order, Abecassis' racing career got cut off with the start of World War II. George didn't sit out the war by any means. In fact, he was involved in very dangerous missions ferrying secret agents in and out of the European mainland throughout the war. At one point, George was shot down and became a POW. However, for his service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, George returned to more calm pursuits. George returned behind the wheel of some grand prix machines. He won a couple of races and had some other good results before meeting John Heath. George decided to become a partner with John in Hersham and Walton Motors, Ltd. This was a car dealership and garage.
Before the war had started, George had gained some experience driving Alta grand prix cars. This experience led Alta to approach HW Motors to ask them to help the team develop its Alta GP car in order to take part in the newly founded Formula One series. This was not an offer that had come 'out of the blue'. Ever since the late forties, HW had partnered with Alta to develop cars to take part in the Formula 2 series. The partnership had achieved success, and, led Alta to stick with the HW garage to develop a competitive grand prix car. By this time, HW Motors had become one of Britain's premier racing car manufacturers.
HW Motors had been able to achieve a good deal of success throughout the late forties and early fifties. This led Alta to basically hand its engines over to HW. Therefore, when HW Motors decided to take part in the 1951 Formula One season, the type 51 chassis bore the name 'HWM' on it, but its power came from a two liter, longitudinally arranged 4-cylinder engine supplied by Alta.
Overall, the HWM chassis design was small and compact, similar to the Simca-Gordini T15 and T11. The type 51 was a small car. The most prominent feature on the narrow chassis was the '0-shaped' grill on the nose. Small body fairings extended out the side of the car to help conceal the suspension members. The chassis design was so tight and small that such fairings had to be added to offer protection and an aerodynamic advantage. Otherwise, important suspension components would have remained uncovered and unprotected.
Despite running a small longitudinal 4-cylinder engine, the car was so small that bulges and small fairings were part of the design of the engine cover in order to provide necessary space for the engine and its components. Out of the left side of the engine cowling protruded the air-induction pipes. Out of the right side of the cowling protruded the dual exhaust pipes. One pipe from each cylinder blended into one larger exhaust pipe.
Wedged-shaped fairings extended to either side of the windscreen and housed the rear-view mirrors. The windscreen was rather large, but, provided little protection for any decent sized driver. A larger driver protruded out of the car terribly because it was so small. The rear-end of the car was rounded and sculpted into a tight package around the fuel tank.
The first race of HWM's 1951 season took place at the Goodwood Circuit and the 3rd Richmond Trophy race. The race took place toward the end of March. HWM had been able to secure the talents of Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin for the 12 lap race on the 2.38 mile road course. George Abecassis was set to take part in the race but was unable due to an injury.
The HWM 51 didn't tear up the speed charts as Moss started the race from ninth on the grid and Macklin started tenth. There were only eleven starters.
While neither one of the two were able to score the win, both of the drivers were able to finish the race. Neither one of them was lapped by the race winner either. Stirling was able to finish the race in fifth and Lance came across in seventh. Prince Bira ended up winning the race in his own OSCA powered Maserati 4CLT/48. Brian Shawe-Taylor and Duncan Hamilton came in second and third respectively.
Toward the end of April the team took part in another non-championship grand prix event. This time it was the 6th Grand Prix of San Remo. HWM entered three cars for the 90 lap race. The team had been able to get three good drivers to pilot their cars this time. Stirling Moss returned, along with Lance Macklin. In addition to Moss and Macklin, HWM got Louis Chiron to drive its third car.
Seventeen cars qualified for the race, and, from the middle toward the tail-end is where the HWM cars could be found. Stirling Moss was the best qualifier amongst the team when he set the tenth fastest time. Lance would start the race thirteenth. Chiron, perhaps unfamiliar with the car, was only able to start the race 16th, second-to-last.
Chiron's race lasted almost to the halfway point. On lap 42, around the 2.0 mile road course, Louis' race came to an end. Such bad fortunes didn't hit Moss or Macklin. In a virtual repeat of the team's previous race, Lance finished the race nine laps down in seventh place. Stirling fared better finishing the race fifth, five laps down to Alberto Ascari in his Ferrari 375.
Seven days after the Grand Prix of San Remo, the team travelled to Bordeaux, France for the 1st Grand Prix de Bordeaux. Stirling Moss didn't take part in the race for HWM but Macklin and Chiron did, however. The 1st Grand Prix of Bordeaux was a long race. It was 123 laps of the 1.5 mile street course through the streets of Bordeaux. Louis Rosier took the pole in his own Talbot-Lago T26C. Chiron continued to struggle behind the wheel of the HWM 51. Louis qualified dead-last for the race. Lance did a bit better having qualified ninth for the race.
Despite bettering his teammate during qualifying, Macklin's race wouldn't outlast Louis'. Lance's race came to an incredibly early end. Macklin wasn't able to start the race due to a carburetor problem. This left the hopes of the team squarely on Chiron's shoulders. He wouldn't necessarily disappoint. In no small way helped by five of the fifteen starters not making it past lap one of the race, Chiron drove a steady race and was able to wield the car up to a seventh place finish. Louis finished nine laps down to Rosier, who dominated the event. Chiron was two laps behind Henri Louveau and was eight laps in front of his nearest challenger, Ecurie Espadon driver Pierre Staechelin.
Twenty-six entrants qualified for final race at the next non-championship event, the 3rd BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone, England. The BRDC International Trophy race was broken up into two heat races and one final. This would be the first time George Abecassis would take part in a race behind the wheel of one his own team cars. He teamed with Stirling Moss. Both of the HWM drivers were slated to take part in the first heat race. Moss qualified tenth for the 15 lap race. Abecassis would start next to him on the four car wide third row in eleventh.
Although this was George's first race of the year, it would not be a memorable one. His race ended on the third lap after a problem. Stirling finished the heat in sixth place, although heat winner Juan Manuel Fangio was breathing down his neck in attempts to lap the Brit.
George's failure left the team with only one driver to take part in the outrageous final race. The grid for the final was based upon qualifying times for each of the heat races. Therefore, Moss started the race from the sixth row in twentieth position.
When the race started, the rain was already falling rather heavily. In short order, the track resembled more of a lake than a race track. The flooding that was overcoming large portions of the track was causing fits for many of the drivers. Some were practically crawling around the track. Reg Parnell seemed more like a duck than a racing driver. Parnell seemed to be able to hold it together better than most others. He would end up winning the race that was stopped because of the rain and the flooding. However, he had been able to average almost 62 miles per hour in the deluge. Moss finished the race one lap down (amazing to think he had already been lapped within the span of only five laps). Stirling ended up rain-soaked in fourteenth.
The team decided to miss the Grand Prix of Paris in order to concentrate on the first round of the Formula One season, which took place only one week later in Bremgarten, Switzerland. The team brought two cars to the first Formula One event. Stirling Moss was behind the wheel of one of them once again, as was George Abecassis.
The Swiss Grand Prix took place on what was basically a motorcycle track around Bremgarten. It was 4.5 miles in length. The race distance that year was 42 laps for a total race distance of 190 miles. George had a difficult time in his own HWM as he would start from second-to-last, or, twentieth on the grid. Stirling was only able to start the race six spots better in fourteenth. These qualifying results weren't too surprising given the presence of the big teams like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
George had only taken part in one race prior to the Swiss Grand Prix and that was the BRDC International Trophy race. Unfortunately, his season had consisted of only three completed laps. He would have sorely loved to finish the first round of the championship that year. While this didn't happen, he was able to make it over halfway. Twenty-three laps into the forty-two lap event Abecassis was out of the race due to magneto problems with his HWM-Alta.
Considering the pace of some of the other competitors, Stirling Moss' race went rather well. He was able to wrestle his HWM around the track and ended up finishing eighth. Taking into account he squared off against four Alfa Romeos and four Ferraris, Moss' eighth place finish was a very impressive result. He had only missed out on the points by three places. Fangio would win the race for Alfa Romeo with an average speed of almost 90 miles per hour. Piero Taruffi would finish second for Ferrari followed by Giuseppe Farina in his Alfa Romeo 159.
After the Swiss Grand Prix at the end of May, the HWM team didn't compete in another grand prix event until the 1st Scottish Grand Prix held at the Winfield aerodrome in Berwickshire, Scotland. The team entered only one car driven by Reg Parnell. Despite only having the one car, things were looking good after qualifying. Reg took the HWM-Alta and put it on the pole for the 50 lap race around the 2.0 mile road course.
The excitement after qualifying turned to utter disappointment right at the start of the race. As the race started, the driveshaft on Parnell's car broke leaving him stranded. Philip Fotheringham-Parker was gifted an opportunity and he took advantage by winning the race over Gillie Tyrer and Ian Stewart.
While one HWM was in Scotland to take part in the Scottish Grand Prix, the rest of the HWM team was in the Netherlands and Zandvoort to take part in the Grand Prix of the Netherlands the day after the race in Scotland. For this race, the team entered three cars. One was driven by Stirling Moss and another by Lance Macklin. The third was driven by John Heath; the other principal in the HWM team.
Heath had an abysmal qualifying and would start the race from dead-last on the grid. Since there were only twelve who started the race, Macklin didn't fare all that better when he set what was the tenth fastest time. Moss was the best qualifier of the team. He would start the race sixth. Since the grid was arranged 3-2-3 Stirling was behind pole-sitter Farina, only separated by the two-car second row.
The race was 90 laps of the 2.6 mile road course and would end up being a good event for the team. All three drivers would end up finishing the race, even Heath, though he started last. Although last amongst those still running, and eight laps down to race winner Louis Rosier, John was able to finish eighth. Andre Pilette ended up crashing on what would be his last lap of the race. This helped Macklin, who had been under pressure. Lance would end up running out of fuel as the race came to an end, but, because Andre had crashed out, would go on to finish the race sixth. The race went even better for Stirling as he was able to drive his HWM to a podium finish. Moss finished third, one lap down to race winner Louis Rosier.
On the fifth of August the team made its way to Albi, France for the Grand Prix de l'Albigeois. While Macklin remained to drive one of the team's cars, Moss wasn't behind the wheel as he had been most of the year. Instead, the team hired Duncan Hamilton to drive the second car. Moss and Abecassis were present and could have driven the second car. However, Duncan would have the honor, although it would end up not being much of a memorable experience. In fact, Duncan would end up being unable to take part in the race for a rather unusual reason.
Maurice Trintignant would take the pole for the race. Both of the HWM drivers struggled to keep pace. Hamilton ended up out-qualifying Macklin, but it wasn't much of an honor as Hamilton would start the race thirteenth out of fifteen drivers. Macklin wouldn't set a time in qualifying and would start the race fourteenth.
Hamilton would not be able to start the race not because of some kind of mechanical problem. No, he was prohibited from taking part in the race because of having the wrong type of fuel. This left Macklin to uphold the team's honors for the 34 laps of the 5.56 mile public road course. Although Lance would end up the race three laps down, he would turn his poor starting position around. He would finish the race eighth. Trintignant dominated the race. Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron finished second and third.
Almost two months after Macklin was able to salvage an eighth place finish at the Grand Prix of Albi, HWM took part in their final race of 1951. The English company stayed close to home and took part in the 4th Goodwood Trophy race held in Chichester, England. The race wasn't all that long. It consisted of only 15 laps of the 2.38 mile road course for a total of 35 miles.
HWM prepared two cars for the race to be piloted by Stirling Moss and team co-founder George Abecassis. Tony Rolt set the best time in qualifying. Abecassis put together a good qualifying effort and was able to start the race seventh. Stirling wasn't able to match George's pace and had to settle with starting tenth on the grid, almost directly behind his teammate.
Seeing as how it was the last race of the season for the team, the desire for good results was palpable. Taking to heart the fact Giuseppe Farina arrived with an Alfa Romeo 159 and Reg Parnell was driving a Ferrari 375, HWM's results in the race were rather uplifting. Both of the team's cars would finish the race. Throughout the length of the race George held station and finished a rather quite race in seventh; the same place in which he started. Moss, however, overcame his start further down on the grid and pushed his way to a rather impressive result. Though he too would end up one lap down to race winner Farina, Moss was able to push his way up through the field to finish fifth. Farina won the race, completing the distance in just over twenty-two minutes and averaging 95 miles per hour. Reg Parnell and Tony Rolt came in second and third.
In Formula One's second season, HW Motors was unable to score any points or lead any laps. The team didn't have the pace to set any fastest laps in a race, but, Moss' rather impressive result at Bremgarten showed what could be done with the car when in the right hands.
The majority of HWM's season was spent competing in non-championship races. Even then, the team's results were mixed. However, the time served to cement the careers of Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin. The team never had a huge racing budget and its cars were never able to really challenge the top teams. But, the team served as a platform to demonstrate the talents of many up-and-coming drivers. Though not spectacular, Moss had rather good results almost every time behind the wheel of an HWM 51. This served as a foundation for Stirling, and therefore, in the footnotes of Stirling's career there has to be a notation made to HW Motors. This is the part of the story of Formula One HW Motors played. It is their honor to have helped foster the career of one of Formula One's great drivers.